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U.N. judge confirms Croatia indictment against former Yugoslav president

Updated:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ A U.N. judge confirmed another indictment against Slobodan Milosevic, charging the former Yugoslav leader with the murder of hundreds of civilians and the expulsion of 170,000 non-Serbs in Croatia, the tribunal said Tuesday.

Judge Almiro Rodrigues of Portugal on Monday confirmed the indictment accusing Milosevic of 32 counts of persecution, torture, murder, plunder, unlawful imprisonment, destroying religious institutions and schools, and other ``inhuman acts'' in a Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing between August 1991 and June 1992.

Milosevic was brought to The Hague in June to stand trial for alleged atrocities in Kosovo during the Serb crackdown on ethnic Kosovar Albanians in 1999, which was brought to an end by a NATO bombing campaign against Serb troops. Prosecutors have said they were working on a third indictment accusing the former Yugoslav president of war crimes in Bosnia.

With the arrests of Milosevic and others, the tribunal is moving toward its goal of making policy makers answerable for the horrors committed against civilians during the decade-long breakup of Yugoslavia, when more than 200,000 people were killed.

The latest indictment said Milosevic ``participated in a joint criminal enterprise'' aimed at forcibly removing the majority of the Croat and other non-Serbs from around one-third of the Republic of Croatia.

The goal, according to prosecutors, was to incorporate the Croatian regions into a ``greater Serbian state'' void of non-Serbs.

The area included the Serb-dominated territory in Croatia known as Krajina, and what Serbs called the ``Dubrovnik Republic'' of Croatia.

Serbian, Montenegrin and Yugoslav forces, as well as police and paramilitary units, forged a brutal military front that seized towns, villages and settlements.

``This regime included the extermination, willful killing or murder of hundreds of Croat and other non-Serb civilians, including women and elderly persons,'' the document said.

Milosevic's forces deported at least 170,000 non-Serb civilians, detained thousands of others in inhumane conditions and ``wantonly destroyed'' property and religious buildings, the indictment says.

As a result, virtually the whole of the Croat and other non-Serb civilian population were forcibly removed, deported or killed, the indictment said.

During the period set out in the allegations, Milosevic was the president of the Republic of Serbia and was responsible for the crimes of his subordinates.

About two dozen Serbian and Yugoslav officials and military commanders were cited in the indictment as involved in Milosevic's alleged crimes, some of whom had been indicted separately. All were said to be under Milosevic's authority and following his orders.

Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said Milosevic will face a genocide charge for Bosnia, the most serious war crime in the statute book. Tribunal officials have given investigators more time to gather evidence against the former president, who was ousted in a popular uprising one year ago.

Prosecutors will seek to combine the three indictments, which would delay the start of the trial until late next year.

Milosevic has made two confrontational appearances before the tribunal since his transfer to The Hague and refuses to recognize its legitimacy. The tribunal appointed three veteran defense lawyers as ``friends of the court'' to assist Milosevic and the judges during proceedings.
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